Tuesday, December 26, 2017

'What Kind of World"

All of the editorial comments with which I could surround this poem are so obvious, upon reading it, that silence serves us best. Only this:  Almost 50 years ago this poem was published in The National Catholic Reporter.  The triple evils of materialism, racism and militarism, enumerated by Martin Luther King, Jr., still feed the fears of this country, and continue to define so very much of its drive to dominate, destroy and silence most of the world. But that was true in the days when the decree of Caesar Augustus went forth, that all might be subject to a census...and it is true now, when far too many are not counted at all.

what kind of world
is it indeed that forces
christmas to our winter
and some poor ragged jesus
to stumble over starved dead
rotting in the jungles
to steel himself against
shouts of men behind
stone walls and take upon himself
a cold world and fall again
in his still fruitless coming

we have never fully
understood what kind of world
it is indeed
                     we have
in our land this winter
a famine of simplicity:
magnificent hallelujahs
for a hundred resurrections
and a thousand births
but no straw
no animals
no shepherds struck
dumb with fear and wonder
no virgins
no silent and adoring kings

no not this year    i
do  not want a savior’s coming
our nights are neither quiet
calm   nor bright   we have
everything to keep us living
and go about collecting
scraps of mute despair
to stuff in window cracks
and under doors to keep away
our loneliness
this biting awful cold
what kind of world
is it indeed

wait awhile   sweet
jesus   just a year
to give us time
just a year    to give
us time
               but  you will come
i  know:   you must
you will come now
in this dead
and barren world
and stumble
and be cold
and grow more ragged
and more poor until
gasping blood   you spit
your anguish into the dry earth
and cry to be delivered

and you will
and we will
and they who come
after us will

this winter waiting
is our ritual
it must be carried out
even though we
no longer keep the mystery
of our fathers

give us time

perhaps a year

will bring us mysteries
and we may beg
a savior’s coming
                                     -- Luke        (1969)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

'Come I Said, Be Warm"

No   I was told
                           to say
If you do not see their
              if they have only
small belongings
                                  tell them
          But his eyes cut
into my throat   and I could
not breathe
                         or look away
then I would have had to stare
at her skin   her hands   her
eyes    even more commanding

The old man who had told us
stories every evening after evening
spoke in my mind
                                         It could be
you    it has been    us
                                          All is still

I was the only one in the door

Come   I said   you can at least
(and then the air swirled and I knew
the dream in his eyes was my hunger
long denied)
                            Come    I said

Be warm
                     Your child shall
not be

8 December 2017

[Even though very many of the eyes that scan this place have looked at these words, in other sendings, the poem is persistent. So it is here. And so are we. And so is the Child in us all. Nothing of grace can be denied.]